WhatIfSports Duel to the Death Season: Week 1

Alright, let’s have some fun today. Today we begin the Greatest of All Time season through the WhatIfSports.com simulation engine and settle once and for all which team in NFL history truly was the best. Or just muddy up the conversation even more. One or the other. For a refresher on which teams I chose for this enjoyable little exercise and why, click here for the NFC teams and here for the AFC side.

Already in Week 1, there are some tantalizing matchups to be had, probably none moreso than the perfect ’72 Dolphins heading into Foxborough to take on the perfect (in the regular season) ’07 Patriots. Not even Phil Simms could ruin that matchup! Okay, maybe he could. There are also six games pitting league champions against each other: the ’91 Redskins at the ’62 Packers, the ’85 Bears at the ’76 Raiders, the ’86 Giants at the ’92 Cowboys, and the ’75 Steelers at the ’58 Colts being foremost among them. To see the rest of the Week 1 schedule and the schedule for this entire season, scroll down to the bottom of this post. AHHHH THIS IS GOING TO BE SO COOL!!!! Let’s begin.

1991 Houston Oilers 38, 2009 New Orleans Saints 20

In a mild upset, the ’91 Oilers scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to change what had been a tight game with two ties and two lead changes into a rout. Warren Moon threw for 273 yards and four touchdowns (two to Haywood Jeffires – yes, that’s how you spell his last name) on just 28 attempts and the Oilers picked three sacks on Drew Brees (20-of-28, 271 yards, 1 TD). Marques Colston caught a 57-yard touchdown pass to begin the scoring and ended up with 100 yards receiving.

1962 Green Bay Packers 24, 1991 Washington Redskins 19

Tom Moore scored on a one-yard touchdown run with 25 seconds remaining and the Packers survived electric performances from Mark Rypien and Gary Clark to hang on for the victory. Rypien was simply sensational, going 16-of-22 for 313 yards and one touchdown; Clark was his main target, gaining 162 yards on six catches, four of those going for longer than 20 yards. The Redskins continually bogged down in Packers territory, however, and needed four Chip Lohmiller field goals to cling to a 19-17 lead with four minutes left in the fourth quarter. From there, Bart Starr converted a 4-and-9 with a ten yard run and then hit Ron Kramer on the very next play for a 33-yard gain to set Moore up for the game-winner. Jim Taylor was Green Bay’s MVP, rushing for 158 yards on just eighteen carries and scoring two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving).

1973 Minnesota Vikings 31, 2012 Atlanta Falcons 10

John Gilliam made his one run of the game count, scoring from 67 yards away and the Vikings scored the game’s last 21 points to secure a comfortable home victory. Fran Tarkenton threw for 180 yards on only 20 attempts and the Purple People Eaters largely rendered Matt Ryan ineffective, giving up only 148 yards on 26 attempts.

1968 New York Jets 34, 1960 Philadelphia Eagles 9

The Eagles actually outgained the Jets 364-363 but committed two turnovers to the Jets’ none and repeatedly came up short in the red zone. Matt Snell scored three rushing touchdowns and gained 120 yards on only 15 attempts. Joe Namath was an efficient 13-of-21 for 181 yards; Norm Van Brocklin threw for 237 yards on 32 attempts for the Eagles.

2007 New England Patriots 24, 1972 Miami Dolphins 14

Tom Brady was a perfect 13-for-13 for 187 yards and the ’72 Dolphins lost their first game ever in a 24-14 defeat to the ’07 Patriots. Earl Morrall was ineffective, going of 9-of-20 for 120 yards and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown by Asante Samuel (somebody’s gotta tell Earl that Asante’s a gambler!). Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk scored rushing touchdowns for the Patriots; Mercury Morris scored both of the Dolphins’ touchdowns.

2000 Tennessee Titans 31, 2006 Indianapolis Colts 16

Eddie George was unstoppable, rushing for 198 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries and the Colts (apparently without the services of Bob Sanders) gave up 253 rushing yards total and squandered a 16-7 halftime lead in Nashville. Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai teamed up to combine for over 150 rushing yards for the Colts, but Peyton Manning was surprisingly subpar, going only 10-of-19 for 134 yards.

1990 Buffalo Bills 15, 1969 Kansas City Chiefs 10

The Bills ended up being the main beneficiaries of a wild fourth quarter, in which there were a combined four turnovers and a game-clinching safety under two minutes left. The Bills twice turned the ball over in the final period to give the Chiefs excellent field position, but the Chiefs could only manage a Jan Stenerud field goal and essentially lost the game when Mike Garrett was tackled in the end zone with 1:29 remaining. Thurman Thomas ran for 137 yards on 18 carries and Scott Norwood hit two field goals, though a third attempt bounced off the upright (we can only assume it was the right one).

1981 Cincinnati Bengals 38, 1964 Cleveland Browns 13

Cris Collinsworth caught two touchdown passes from Ken Anderson and the Bengals led by as many as 32 points in a lopsided rout. Jim Brown was held to just 59 yards on 19 carries and the Browns’ only touchdown came on a 75-yard punt return by an undisclosed player (I’d like to think it was Lou Groza) midway through the fourth quarter. By then, Anderson had already thrown for three touchdowns and Pete Johnson had rushed for 122 yards on 20 carries; Steve Kreider added a 42-yard touchdown on his only carry of the game.

2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26, 1989 San Francisco 49ers 19

In probably the biggest upset of the day, the Buccaneers marched into Candlestick and overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to shock the 49ers. With the score tied at 16 with ten minutes remaining, Simeon Rice picked off Joe Montana to give the Bucs the ball at the 49ers’ 24-yard-line and five plays later, Brad Johnson hit Keyshawn Johnson with a two-yard touchdown for the eventual game-winner. In addition to that clutch interception, Rice added two more sacks of Montana, who was held to a mediocre 16-of-28 for 168 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Roger Craig had a big day on the ground, rushing for 114 yards and picking up an additional 38 as a receiver, but Jerry Rice was held to just 36 yards on five catches.

1999 Jacksonville Jaguars 41, 1998 Denver Broncos 27

Mark Brunell was magnificent, going 17-of-22 for 270 yards and two touchdowns and the Jaguars put up five touchdowns on the two-time defending Super Bowl champions. Jimmy Smith gained 135 yards as a receiver (81 of those coming on a second-quarter touchdown from Brunell) and James Stewart gained 106 yards on the ground. The Broncos were able to move the ball themselves – Terrell Davis had a big day, rushing for 143 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries and John Elway threw for two touchdowns – but weren’t able to keep up with the surprisingly potent Jaguars.

1999 St. Louis Rams 17, 2005 Carolina Panthers 13

The Rams dominated the game, picking up 131 more yards of offense than the Panthers but still had to sweat out a last-second red zone attempt from the Panthers to hang on for the victory. Kurt Warner hit a number of big plays, throwing for 252 yards and two touchdowns on only 22 attempts. But he also threw two interceptions and those turnovers kept the Panthers in the game long enough to mount a drive late in the fourth quarter down to the Rams’ 11 yard-line. From there, though, the Rams’ defense stiffened and Jake Delhomme overthrew Ricky Proehl on fourth down to seal the game for St. Louis. Marshall Faulk gained 86 rushing yards on only 13 carries and also caught a 57-yard touchdown pass from Warner.

1985 Chicago Bears 37, 1976 Oakland Raiders 9

This was all Chicago from the get-go, as Walter Payton caught two touchdown passes from Jim McMahon in the first quarter and the Bears simply crushed the Raiders in Oakland. McMahon was outstanding, throwing for 295 yards and three touchdowns on 27 attempts and Payton gained 133 yards on the ground on nineteen attempts in addition to those two receiving touchdowns. Defensively, the Bears held Ken Stabler to just 173 yards on 33 attempts.

1979 San Diego Chargers 20, 1952 Detroit Lions 3

Neither team’s offense was particularly effective, but two Dan Fouts touchdown passes to John Jefferson provided a solid cushion for the Chargers. Fouts also threw two interceptions but did gain 217 yards through the air on just 25 attempts. Bobby Layne, on the other hand, didn’t have any touchdowns to go with his two interceptions and the Lions’ ground game was completely stamped out, gaining only 70 yards on 39 carries.

1992 Dallas Cowboys 25, 1986 New York Giants 20

Alvin Harper caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Troy Aikman with a little over five minutes remaining and the Cowboys overcame their second deficit of the day to hold off their division rivals. The Giants jumped out to a 14-3 lead behind two Joe Morris touchdown runs and Morris, who gained 175 yards overall, ran for a third early in the fourth quarter to reclaim the lead for the Giants at 20-15. But Phil Simms’ wildly ineffective day (10-of-25 for just 114 yards and one interception) kept the Cowboys in the game and allowed Aikman (16-for-26, 225 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) to mount a comeback. Lawrence Taylor did pick up a sack for the Giants.

1975 Pittsburgh Steelers 16, 1958 Baltimore Colts 0

The Colts outgained the Steelers 312-257, but the lack of a true kicking specialist really hurt them in this game as Steve Myhra missed FOUR field goals – all from 38-to-44 yards – and the Steelers shut out Johnny U. and the Colts in Baltimore. For his part, Roy Gerela hit all three of his field goal attempts for Pittsburgh and Terry Bradshaw threw for 154 yards on only 15 attempts. Lenny Moore ran for 79 yards on just 11 attempts for the Colts, but he also had a costly fumble deep inside Baltimore territory that set up one Gerela field goal and Unitas also threw an interception on a 3rd-and-goal play from the Steelers’ 9. Frenchy Fuqua sealed the game with a 32-yard touchdown with a little under two minutes remaining.

2008 Arizona Cardinals 33, 2005 Seattle Seahawks 23

Kurt Warner had a literal fireball shooting out of his butt, going 26-of-32 for 376 yards and three touchdowns and the team that is clearly the worst in this league on paper went into Seattle and came out with a victory. Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston each went over 100 yards receiving and Larry Fitzgerald picked up 92 yards receiving and two touchdowns, one of which was the game-winner with 3:20 remaining. Matt Hasselbeck threw for three touchdowns for the Seahawks but watched grimly (I assume) as Shaun Alexander failed to pick up a vital 4th-and-5 late in the fourth quarter. Perhaps the most interesting thing to note here, though? The Cardinals took three kneel downs while the Seahawks were out of timeouts after the two-minute warning, the last of which came with 15 seconds left. Instead of just letting the clock run out, though, they sent out Neil Rackers to try an Eff-You 25-yard field goal with three seconds left (which he, of course, made). When did 2007 Bill Belichick start coaching the ’08 Cardinals?

Next week: The ’07 Patriots take on the ’75 Steelers in Pittsburgh (will Belichick figure out a way to spy on the Steelers even with antiquated technology?), the ’98 Broncos try to avoid an 0-2 start against the ’85 Bears, the ’86 Giants have their home opener against the ’62 Packers, and Kurt Warner faces off against Kurt Warner in the first ’99 Rams-’08 Cardinals matchup of the season.

The WhatIfSports Duel to the Death Season Standings

AFC East

  1. ’07 New England: 1-0
  2. ’68 NY Jets: 1-0
  3. ’90 Buffalo: 1-0
  4. ’72 Miami: 0-1

AFC North

  1. ’75 Pittsburgh: 1-0
  2. ’81 Cincinnati: 1-0
  3. ’58 Baltimore: 0-1
  4. ’64 Cleveland: 0-1

AFC South

  1. ’99 Jacksonville: 1-0
  2. ’00 Tennessee: 1-0
  3. ’91 Houston: 1-0
  4. ’06 Indianapolis: 0-1

AFC West

  1. ’79 San Diego: 1-0
  2. ’69 Kansas City: 0-1
  3. ’98 Denver: 0-1
  4. ’76 Oakland: 0-1

NFC East

  1. ’92 Dallas: 1-0
  2. ’91 Washington: 0-1
  3. ’86 NY Giants: 0-1
  4. ’60 Philadelphia: 0-1

NFC North

  1. ’85 Chicago: 1-0
  2. ’62 Green Bay: 1-0
  3. ’73 Minnesota: 1-0
  4. ’52 Detroit: 0-1

NFC South

  1. ’02 Tampa Bay: 1-0
  2. ’05 Carolina: 0-1
  3. ’09 New Orleans: 0-1
  4. ’12 Atlanta: 0-1

NFC West

  1. ’99 St. Louis: 1-0
  2. ’08 Arizona: 1-0
  3. ’89 San Francisco: 0-1
  4. ’05 Seattle: 0-1
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